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What is a Myth?

November 22, 2013 — Leave a comment
  1. It is extra-literary. 
  2. The pleasure of myth depends hardly at all on such usual narrative attractions as suspense and surprise.
  3. Human sympathy is at a minimum. We do not project ourselves strongly into the characters. We feel indeed that the pattern of their movements has a profound relevance to our own life, but we do not imaginatively transport ourselves into theirs.
  4. Myth is always in one sense of the word “fantastic.” It deals with the impossibles and preternaturals.  
  5. The experience may be sad or joyful but it is always grave. Comic myth is impossible.
  6. The experience is not only grave but awe-inspiring. Its as if something of great moment had been communicated to us. 

The experience is not only grave but awe-inspiring. We feel it to be numinous. It is as if something of great moment had been communicated to us. The recurrent efforts of the mind to grasp- we mean, chiefly, to conceptualise- this something, are seen in the persistent tendency of humanity to provide myths with allegorical explanations. And after all allegories have been tried, the myth itself continues to feel more important than they.

C.S. Lewis concerning myths, An Experiment in Criticism